Feb 24, 2011

Your Website Trumps Your Sales People

Buyers verify everything. Whatever a sales person says will be checked and double-checked online.

This point was clearly driven home for me this week. Sticky Branding is in the process of upgrading our office. We’re negotiating with our landlord, we’re getting new furniture and we’re buying a new phone system. Each purchase is being carefully researched and evaluated. We work with the sales people, we speak with their customers and we look for as much information as we can online.

Digging pays off. We caught one of our vendors quoting a price that was higher than the rates listed on their website. When we discovered this discrepancy we felt conned. It made us question the sales person’s integrity, competence and expertise. It also made us question doing business with this company. We had been working with them for several years, but the dissonance of this experience threw the whole relationship into jeopardy.

We ended up calling the sales person’s boss, and had a frank chat with him about the quotes. It turns out their website was out of date. They changed their pricing for Canada on the first of the year, but the website is controlled out of their corporate offices in the US. The Canadian’s were unaware of the discrepancy, they apologized profusely, gave us last year’s pricing as well as a few more perks to smooth over the relationship. We walked away satisfied, but the experience made me wonder how often a website could jeopardize a sale.

Your website is gospel

It doesn’t matter what your people say. Your customer will take your website as gospel.

In an earlier post, I discussed how 93% of B2B buyers start their purchasing process on Google. Buyers rely on the information they find online to make buying decisions. And in many cases, they trust the written word far more than what a human being says.

This is a marked change from a few decades ago. Through decades of advertising exposure, we have become skeptical of companies’ selling techniques. As buyers, we have taken ownership for the problem. We use the Web to educate ourselves, understand our options and select vendors that best suit our needs.

We don’t expect sales people to sell us. We expect them to educate us, validate what we already know and help us choose. If a sales person doesn’t fulfill those expectations, all of our warning bells go off.

Manage the buyer’s touch points

I share this story as a cautionary tale. Any business can be caught with discrepancies between their digital content and their business practices. The pricing discrepancy Sticky branding experienced could have been easily avoided. It was a very basic website update.

These oversights are deadly. Every time your customers experience a discrepancy it throws your sales process into jeopardy. Luckily for our vendor, Sticky Branding had history with them. Otherwise we would have walked.

Take an audit of each of your customer’s touch points. What information are you sharing? Does each destination clearly tell your story? Is the story consistent across each touch point?

Buyers rely on what they find online. It’s integral to their total purchasing process. Do you have someone managing those buyer touch points in your organization?

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